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University of St Thomas-Saint Paul

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

My college experience has consistently, yet necessarily challenged my mind, heart, and soul. I have been challenged my past few years of college to do what I can to survive within the realm of better education, whether I am facing a monetary struggle or an internal struggle. However, I am grateful because the experience has given me endurance, a surplus of fascinating knowledge, and a new perspective of life. Having the privileged opportunity to excel holds much meaning to me because without these given opportunities my world would not be as hopeful, rich, and innovative as it is today. No matter how rigorous the task is at hand, it is crucial for me to find a way to overcome the intial intimidation of it, and most importantly, to realize that is within my power to reach it. This is where the heart and soul of me is put to the test. Passing it means mastering my goals. Once I have achieved those goals I feel I have added valuable skills and meaning to my life. The college experience is most valuable because I have learned success is always within my reach when I challenge my will power, heart, and mind.

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My high school experience was defined by a loneliness and isolation that was later deemed "Major Depressive Disorder." My experience with depression left me careless about my life and my decisions. I could not, of course, change the mental illness that took charge of my life for so long. However, when I look back at myself at 18 years old during that incredibly dark time, I am reminded of the most valued lessons I have learned as an undergraduate: "Asking for help does not mean you are helpless, and do not be afraid to take chances - persist, care about things, be passionate, be deliberate." I now identify most closely with the things I am passionate about. I am a feminist, a humanist, an ally, a pacifist. I am an activist. I would be lost without these identifiers. However, I would not be in this place had I never decided to ask for help and stop waiting for someone else to take charge of my own life. My greatest accomplishments have come from taking initiative and being purposeful in my actions. I wish the careless 18-year-old version of myself had been reminded that her life and her decisions mattered.

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If I had a time machine, I would reiterate to myself how important it is to remain true to my uninfluenced values and priorities. It is very easy to get caught up in what others on one's campus find important, but the only way to truly be happy and find contentment through one's experiences is to focus on what you are passionate about. Getting to college, I knew I wanted to go into an area of environmental studies, but I originally came to St. Thomas looking at the volleyball team and due to the amount of financial aid I would be offered through tuition remission. Though I toured more environmentally focused colleges, I am somewhat glad on how disorganized I was in applying for schools and my ultimate destination at St. Thomas. Through bringing environmental and social justice issues into people's radar on my campus at times seems like a constant uphill battle, I think being surrounded by people who have different priorities and opinions has really enabled me to grow and solidify my beliefs, and also to gain insight and learn about others more as well. Diversity is key, and I'm stronger today for it.

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My college experience at St. Thomas has been somewhat life changing. While still in high school, I had no desire to further my education and never dreamed of attending a prestigious university like St. Thomas. I was a substance abuser, only caring about the next party. My future was not a bright one. As a high school senior, I was lost and everything seemed meaningless. During an afternoon class, I overheard a fellow student talking about their visit to St. Thomas; it sounded like an intriguing place that was well worth seeing. I toured the school soon after. Immediately, I fell in love and knew this is where I needed to be. Since then, I have accomplished a great deal of achievements. I have maintained a GPA of 3.4 or higher every semester since my first, I am a resident advisor and love the job, and I have joined clubs that provide me with a sense of belonging. My college experience is the most valuable experience I have. Attending college has been completely life changing for me. I never dreamed of seeing myself as a leader. Through attending college, I’ve had the opportunity to find my true self.

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In the past year and a half here at the University of St. Thomas I have made lifelong friends, experienced things I would have never imagined, and started my journey to becoming a “real adult”. These are the reasons I am satisfied with my college experience and believe it has been a value for me to attend school here. I currently live with four other girls directly across the street from campus. This experience of living on my own and being able to share it with people who I have created extremely strong bonds with has positively enhanced my college experience. During my freshman year I auditioned for role in an improvisational theatre group. “Comedy Sportz University League” was one of the most amazing experiences St. Thomas has been able to give me. I learned how to think on my toes, laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe and meet people who I wouldn’t run into during my everyday routine. Finally, with the incredibly large network of alumni, I have already been interning at an accounting firm for a year. This experience has given me security that I will be able to land a job immediately after I graduate.

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Preparing to make the significant transition into that of a college freshman is one that in high school, no individual is fully prepared for. After being subjected to this experience, it is easy to go back and tell myself as a senior the essential requirements to ensure that this dramatic change is one worth every piece of effort that goes into it. The most crucial piece of guidance that I would advise to myself would be to choose which college I will attend based solely on my own personal happiness. Making a decision based on family and friends may leave them pleased, however, it is one of the easiest ways to start off your college experience undesirably. Although deceiving with all of the publicity, this process is not a contest. Comparing your wishes to one of your peers’ is only cheating yourself. If you envision yourself more pleased here than anywhere else, your decision is simple: go there. It may not be the highest ranked school on your list, or the most suitable to your academic needs in your parents’ eyes, but don't lose sight that your biggest concern is to ensure that YOU are happy.

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First of all, things will never go exactly as you anticipate. Go with the flow and trust that everything will be fine - because it will, even though it may not seem like it at the time. You might not get along with your randomly assigned roommate or you might have no idea how you will survive certain crazy semesters, but you will get through it. Be flexible, even though it's hard to give up control. Not only will your daily schedules often change at the last moment, but exciting opportunities you never expected will fall in your lap. Take advantage of the exciting adventures that come your way - because they will often pave the way for additional opportunities which may sometimes include payment! Be attentive in class and don't be afraid to study all you can, even if others tease you - this is the time for learning all you can! Then, when you are about to graduate, you will see with satisfaction that you have indeed learned quite a bit - even though it also seems like you have barely scratched the surface! Finally, don't forget to live life joyfully and see the beauty all around you!

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In my opinion, college serves as two major purposes. The obvious purpose is the education. It is important to make sure the college of your choice offers the majors/minors you are interested, as well as knowing you are capable of reciveing all your credits in the time you want to graduate. The second purpose is the atmosphere of the college socially. College is the time in your life where you define yourself; figuring out who you are and who you aren't. It would be in a new students best interest to make sure the college in which they are interested in offers many activites you can become involved in, and a feel comfortable and welcome. Advice I would give in order to learn weather the school is right for you is ask a student themselves, whether it be a student you know personally, or randomly find on facebook. Ask them any question you may have (academically, socially, athletics etc.) You would be surprised how honest the students are. Because lets face it, every school tries to make their school look like it would suit you best. It's important to look beyond and discover it for yourself.

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My college experience to date has provided me with many valuable life skills such as learning to communicate my ideas, learning to think critically and learning about the cultures and people of the world. However, the most important thing that I have gained from my college experience has been confidence. I am a naturally shy person and in high school I tended to be an introverted and academically average student. The smaller class sizes I encountered in college, as well as the helpful professors, allowed me to break out of my shell and envelope myself in situations which helped me to grow and become a more confident person. I also was able to learn more efficiently with the support of my college professors, which allowed me to do quite well in my classes and greatly boosted my self confidence. College has been more than just an academically valuable experience for me. I've grown so much as a person and have gained a high level of personal confidence that I take with me everywhere in my life. I wouldn't trade my college experience for anything and I can't wait to see what else it has to offer.

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The biggest thing anyone learns in their college experience in my opionion is dependence. More specifically, dependence on themselves. I have learned to take more responsibility for myself. While away at college you don't have your parents there to remind you to get your work done on time, nor is anyone there to remind you of that really. The professors care about you but, they also believe that as a college student you should have enough responsibility to care about your grades, schoolwork, and be able to accomplish these tasks on your own. It has been valuable for me to attend college because I've learned more about being independant and on my own. I am much more confident in my ability to rely on myself to take care of whatever task may lie in front of me. Beyond learning to be more indenpendant, it has been valuable for me to attend college in order to gain the knowledge that is going to stay with me (hopefully) and carry me into a profession which I can be sucessful in. College is a time of change and growth, not taking either of these seriously, would be a mistake for anyone.

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